God calls out to us

It is the still small voice that is heard that rings in our mind and pricks our conscience.

Rabbi Berel Wein,

Judaism Torah saved from Kristallnacht`
Torah saved from Kristallnacht`

The opening words of this the third book of the Torah highlight for us an important idea. It is that God, so to speak, calls upon the people for service, position and action. Moshe is called on by God to order the services in the Temple. He used to see this task as being his personal responsibility.

This idea that God calls upon people regularly to accomplish the will of Heaven is expressed in many examples in the Bible and in traditional rabbinic literature. It even resonates in the non-Jewish world where for a long time entering the clergy as a profession was described as being a 'calling.'

All of this is based on the idea that God communicates with his creatures on a regular and multifaceted basis. The rabbis have taught us that the Lord has many messengers and many means of delivering these messages. One should not think that this is random or haphazard.

Therefore the word 'vayikra' is employed rather than the word 'vayikar,' which would imply a much more chancy and random situation. So it appears that God calls unto people regularly and with a divine purpose. The question is whether people are tuned to hear the call and act upon it.

One of the great challenges of life is to do the right thing at the right time. This is true in personal life and in commercial enterprises, as well as in national and religious affairs. Being able to hear the voice of heaven challenging us and calling us is key to doing the right thing at the right time.

God calls out to us in a still small voice as the prophet Elijah was told when he expected to hear the voice in the mighty wind or the frightening earthquake or the monstrous thunderstorm. Rather, the voice does not register in our ears but in our inner mind and heart. In describing the call of God to the mighty hero of Israel, Shimshon, the voices are being described as beginning to pound within him with the force of a tongue inside a bell.

When the prophet Isaiah is called to service he hears a voice that proclaims: “Who shall I send and will go for us?” These questions are eternal and repetitive in every generation and under all circumstances. It is the still small voice that is heard that rings in our mind and pricks our conscience. It is how we feel that the Lord is calling us and allowing us to become His chosen partner in the process of creation and the evolution of civilization.

There are times in life when one has to strain mightily to hear that voice. There are other times in both our personal and national lives when that call is self-evident and clearly heard. But the response to the call is always up to human beings, individually and communally. Certainly in our time, with the rebirth of the Jewish people in so many miraculous and unexpected ways, this call is heard pounding within us and guiding us towards the fulfillment of our mission as a people.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein